From the outside looking in, the deal that sent former Columbus Blue Jacket Rick Nash to the New York Rangers make Scott Howson look as if he’s been defeated.
While the return that Howson got for Nash — Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and a first round draft pick — will net Howson’s Jackets some depth, it will do very little in the way of netting goals. Losing a gifted scorer like Nash is no easy thing for the Blue Jackets to deal with, but what else could Howson have done?
In today’s age, where contract details are everything but secret and what goes on in a locker room doesn’t stay there, Howson was put in the precarious position of trying to maximize his return for a star that had publicly begged out. His hand was forced, GMs around the league knew it, and they could rake Howson over the coals.
Think of it this way: If Howson holds on to Nash, enters the season with the disgruntled forward, and attempts to play through it, the cloud hanging over his team will only aid in crippling an already struggling franchise.
Howson had to make a move. He had to make the move that made most sense for his team and its success.
For that reason, I believe Howson nixed the deal with Detroit.
The reported package from Detroit, from multiple outlets including MLive.com and Macomb Daily, would have seen the Jackets acquire a top-six talent like Johan Franzen or Valterri Filpulla and, in addition, a depth forward with good potential. Both Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist were mentioned by Chuck Pleiness of Macomb Daily.
But if you’re Howson, in a division that is already arguably the most difficult in the NHL, do you want to send your superstar to a division rival only to see him six times a season?
While six games may not seem all that significant, the Red Wings already boast a 49-13-1-6 record over the Jackets since their inception in 2000-01. Adding a superstar to that equation — and maybe seeing that player paired with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg — is enough to scare any GM off. With the Wings taking almost 70 per cent of the points when the two teams meet, adding Nash could have bumped that up to as high as 85 or 90. That’s 10 points a season, lost.
So when the news broke yesterday that Nash had been sent to the Rangers for a package that seemed second rate, it was hard for me to find Howson at fault.
Greg Wyshynski put it perfectly over at Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy:
Nash reportedly limited his list of trade destinations to the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. Howson wasn’t trading him within the division, so goodbye Detroit. The Flyers just signed Shea Weber to a massive contract; as of Monday, they weren’t a viable destination (and one assumes they’d rather allocate their funds to defense anyway). The Bruins didn’t want to part with the types of assets the Rangers ended up parting with; ditto the San Jose Sharks. And who knows if the Penguins wanted to add $7.8 million to their salary structure. So, in the end … yeah, the Rangers.
The deal had to be made with the Rangers. And for all the guff Glen Sather gets, you had to expect he knew that, though he was the one pursuing the prized possession, he was the one operating from the better position.
That Sather was able to make this deal without surrendering NCAA standout and playoff revelation Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, or any of the other young assets the Rangers host is a sure sign that Howson felt backed into a corner.
What Howson got back is what he could have. What he did was what needed to be done.
Howson’s head may be on the chopping block, but Rick Nash is the one who put him there.